Ráth Na Seanadh

Rath of the Synods (1)

Moving away from the churchyard at Tara, as you pass through the swinging gate, the first monument that you will encounter is a rather bumpy looking piece of waste ground known as ‘Ráth Na Seanadh’ or the Ráth of the Synods. This particular Ráth would appear to be of some significance as it is the only one that is made up of four separate groups of banks and ditches, and there is evidence of a wooden structure in the center of this. A portion of the Ráth has been encroached on by the outer wall of the churchyard and there has been quite a lot of disturbance to the earthworks. This section of Tara was said to have contained a number of circular wooden structures from 200 B.C right up until 700 A.D. Like the other monuments on Tara, This Ráth may well have begun as a burial and ritual site, dating back to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. I could not find an earlier name for this site, but according to an 11th century text its current name is first mentioned in connection with St. Patrick, where it is believed that both he and some of his successors like Adomnán and Brendan held important Synods here. In 1810 the Golden Torques of Tara were found in the general vicinity of where the church wall encroaches on the Ráth. Although some accounts mention three being found, there is currently on two remaining, which are both housed in the National Museum in Dublin.

Rath of the Synods (2)

My biggest problem with shooting Tara is the difficulty aside from the unreliable weather is in attempting to show its true nature. Today as you walk around this ancient site, all you will see is a collection of mounds and trenches covered in grass. To truly appreciate these sites you need to see them from above. Google maps can do the job and I will be highlighting the positions of all the sites associated with Tara on my Ruinhunter Map. Mythical Ireland also has a nice collection of Aerial shots which you can see HERE. That said I have tried to show these earthworks as best as I can from the ground. One of the main reasons that this particular site out of all the others at Tara is so difficult to make out is due to a major devastation of the area by a nasty group of cult members calling themselves the ‘British Israelite’s’ whom arrived at Tara in search of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant in 1899. Now I know our ancient Texts claim that a number of the settlers of these ancient lands were descendants of the tribe of Dan (fifth tribe of Israel), some were said to even be related to Noah. With the treat that Egypt posed at the time these early want to-be Tomb Raiders must have really believed that the Ark was hidden here. But to assume that the Ark was buried on Tara is akin to a Holy Grail quest. And so they spent several days digging up the Ráth of the Synods on their failed quest which as it happens, pissed off some very well-known Nationalists including Gonne, Griffiths and Yeats whom are said to have actively campaigned to stop this wilful destruction of an ancient monument.  I also heard stories that both Yeats and his buddy A.E. Russell whom were both high ranking members of the Golden Dawn did a lot more than just campaign against these British Israelite’s’. And all they recovered were some Roman coins which were left there by some mischievous locals.

Rath of the Synods (4)

During the 1950’s some proper excavations were carried out by a Seán P. Ó Riordáin, whom identified four main phases of activity on the Ráth, despite the damage done some 50 years previously. The first phase consisted of an oval shaped enclosure which contained a Barrow. This barrow was created using a cairn of stone which was covered over with the soil dug out from the surrounding ditch. Inside five cremated burials were noted. Later a further number of cremations were added to the top of the mound which had been levelled at the time for this purpose. During the second phase a number of palisaded enclosures were added, which would suggest that the site was used during this period for habitation. During the third phase the site was once again used as a burial ground with a further several burials being uncovered. The final phase of activity noted here was the building of a fourth and final enclosure, similar to the find at Tlachtga. Some interesting artefacts found here suggest that the inhabitants had come into contact with the Roman Empire. Even though the Romans are known for not attempting to exert their influence in Ireland. Recently certain writers have waxed lyrical and claimed that Ireland might be the lost kingdom of Atlantis and Tara was its capital?

Rath of the Synods (3)

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
This entry was posted in Diary of a Ruinhunter, Historical, Neolithic, Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Ráth Na Seanadh

  1. beetleypete says:

    Well if Ireland was the lost city of Atlantis, it is certainly wet enough to justify that assertion!
    Cheers Ed, best wishes, Pete.

  2. colonialist says:

    I would imagine that ghastly group would be disowned by British and Israelis alike.

  3. oglach says:

    Yeats and Russell were indeed high ranking members of the Golden Dawn; I know that Yeats in particular had a dislike for Aleister Crowley before he formed his own “organisation”; but I’d never heard of this bit of history until now. I’ll have to dig deeper; figuratively, of course. Thanks!

    • Ah yes, Mr.Crowley had a habit of stirring things up a bit. He rose through the ranks at an alarming pace, There are some interesting stories about the feud between Crowley and Mathers. I always found it hard to seperate many of these groups as they all seem to have mason overtones. Even these so called British Israelites?

      • oglach says:

        Never knew about the “British Israelites”, somehow, but I’ll check them out. Sound awful. And yes, Crowley and Mathers were constantly trying to defame and/or “curse” one another.

        • Yes, neither did I, until about 8 years ago, without getting into the whole conspirisy theory, they seem to be a group who believe that as desendants of the tribes of Israel, that England is their promised land and they want to establish their gods kingdom in the UK. I could go on about the jewish connection in the royal family and the square mile city of London, but we would be here all week. Im my late youth, I became fascinated with the occult, so obviously the Golden Dawn and Theosophical Society were of huge interest especially when I learned that Yeats and Russell were involved. I guess to this day I am still on the hunt for hidden knowledge, just in a different way 🙂

  4. Very interesting Ed.
    Where I live is littered with Roman forts and castles and Saxon burial sites.
    I think it is safe to say we are very lucky people to live in such proximity to such historic ruins.
    Great pictures and story as always, although do you not think saying Ireland is the lost city of Atlantis was a bit of a step too far? Now I know it’s nearly always wet in your beautiful country but calling it Atlantis might been seen as gilding the lily somewhat… 😉

    • Cheers mate, we most certainly are quite lucky to be surrounded by such great history. The reference to Atlantis, is not my statement, I merely mentioned it as some people have written much about the similarities between these two Islands, with some actually believing that it could be true. A more reasonable connection has also been made which claims that the Tuatha Dé Danann came to Ireland from Atlantis after its destruction.

  5. You’re right, pictures and words can’t do justice to the eerie feeling you get when walking on top of the banks, the wind blowing harsh around your ears and the ravens caving and fluttering in the background.
    It’s kind of magical.
    My friend commented it like this: “I can really understand how people like Poe were inspired from such things. I feel like writing something moody and I’m not even a writer.”

    In short: Incredible place, even in windy weather. 😀

    • Funny you should mention the ravens, They were all over the place when I was there, it was almost like the Mórrígan is still watching over Tara after all this time. And yes Tara is truely magical, It really comes alive after dark. Poe was also an influence on me, his language described things that I could see in an image. 🙂

  6. Another fantastic history lesson. I love the intrigue, too, the uncertainties and lore, for example, about Atlantis. Entertaining and enlightening.

    • Thanks Cheryl, thats the thing with Irish History, as a culture we had an aural tradition, which meant that very little was written down. The books that we do have were written by Christian monks and in doing so I suspect that they put their own twist on our heritage.

  7. Great images and what a fascinating account, thanks Ed. I didn’t know the half of it. The cloud formations in the first photograph are fabulous, you captured their movement so well.

  8. armenpogharian says:

    I really enjoy all the research you do for your photos. I also appreciated your links to the aerial views of the site. They definitely helped me visualize what you were talking about. Keep up the good work.

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